Newspaper commentary stirs memories of Japanese wartime atrocities

Newspaper commentary stirs memories of Japanese wartime atrocities

SINGAPORE, April 14 Kyodo

Anger and resentment over Japanese militarism during World War II remains very much alive in Singapore, judging from the angry missives to the city state’s main English-language newspaper in recent weeks lambasting Japan for its reluctance to apologize fully for its wartime atrocities.

Outbursts against Japan’s invasion and occupation of Asian countries and territories during that war are quite unusual in Singapore, where issues of the war or occupation do not normally evoke as much public fury as in China or South Korea.

But a commentary written by a Japanese academic about Japan’s wartime past, which was published in the Straits Times last month, has apparently reopened the issue and unleashed a storm of criticism against Japan.

The article, headlined ”No ghost from Japan’s past,” was written by Hiro Katsumata, 33, a post-doctoral research fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, and published in the daily March 12.

Katsumata said Japan’s aim in the war was to push the West out of Asia and to liberate the region from the Western colonial masters, and that Japan’s intention today is mainly to act as a bridge between the West and Asia.

However, the article drew the ire of some Singaporeans, who have demanded that Japan apologize for the country’s military aggression in that war and expressed fears of a resurgence of Japanese militarism today.

On Wednesday, three letters were published in the newspaper’s forum page blasting Japan.

One of them called it ”troubling that after 58 years, Japan has made no official apology to its neighbors for its wartime atrocities” and said that ”to exorcise the ghost of its wartime past, Japan must apologize to its neighbors unreservedly and refrain from abolishing Article 9” of the Constitution.

It voiced fears that scrapping the war-renouncing article ”will pave the way for a resurgence in Japanese militarism,” pointing out that Japan currently has enough plutonium to produce 6,000 nuclear bombs.

It also rapped Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where Class A war criminals are enshrined along with the country’s war dead, saying it showed ”a contemptuous disregard for regional sensitivities and may spawn a revival of nationalism.”

Another letter urged Japan ”to stop concealing and distorting history.”

A third letter said that Japan’s objective in that war was to become ”the sole master of Asia, enslaving millions of their Asian brethrens” and that if the Japanese are really peace-loving people, ”they should exhort their government to heed their Asian neighbors’ calls to offer a full and unconditional apology, as Germany did after World War II.”

Singapore was occupied by Japan between 1942 and 1945 and it has been estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 people, mainly ethnic Chinese civilians, were massacred by Japanese troops during the war years.

”It’s a very emotional issue. There are people out there who have lost relatives or suffered during that war, I don’t think it will die away,” said Kong Soon War, an editor for the daily’s forum page.

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